‘Why was damning letter kept secret from councillors who voted for cut in children’s budget?’

A high-level memo warning of serious failings in children’s services should have been shown to councillors before they voted to shave nearly £1million from the amount spent on the department, according to an opposition politician.

By Hayley O’Keeffe
Wednesday, 3rd December 2014, 10:50 am
The letter sent by Sue Imbriano to Chris Williams in January and obtained by this newspaper
The letter sent by Sue Imbriano to Chris Williams in January and obtained by this newspaper

Last week we reported how the letter, from then-children’s services chief Sue Imbriano appealed for help with the ailing service from Bucks County Council’s (BCC’S) chief executive Chris Williams.

The letter was sent in January, but was not shown to councillors or department heads including portfolio holder Angela Macpherson and council leader Martin Tett.

In February councillors, who were unaware of the problems, voted on the budget for the service, sanctioning a budget which shaved nearly £1million off the amount spent the previous year.

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Since Ofsted branded the service inadequate nearly £8million has had to be ploughed into the department to make essential changes.

The letter has only come to light after an investigation by this newspaper.

Linda Derrick, the Labour Party’s local spokesman on health and social care, said: “Why didn’t the chief executive make sure that all councillors were aware of Mrs Imbriano’s professional advice before their critical decision in February to reduce the budget of children’s services.

“Would councillors have reduced the budget if they had been given the advice in Mrs Imbriano’s letter?

“And just as important, why wasn’t Mrs Imbriano’s letter made public?”

She questionned why it had to take the actions of a newspaper before the letter was made public.

She said: “BCC’s constitution requires BCC, when taking decisions, to take all relevant matters into account, to have the benefit of professional advice from officers and to do so in an open and transparent way with the reasons clearly articulated.”

A council spokesman said: “During 2014/15 we have allocated over £7m extra to address pressures in Children’s Services.

“On Monday, the cabinet will be considering proposals to spend nearly £53m next financial year on children’s services. Final budget decisions will be made by the full council on February 12 next year.”